November 20, 2011 / 8:39 PM / 7 years ago

Qantas hopes can reach deal with unions Monday

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Qantas Airways is holding out hope it can reach an agreement with its pilots, engineers and baggage handlers, a spokeswoman said on Monday, the deadline for reaching a deal or bowing to a settlement set by Australia’s industrial umpire.

Qantas and three unions were ordered on Nov 1 by the Fair Work Australia commission to reach an agreement by Monday, after Qantas grounded its planes in a desperate bid to end disruptive disputes.

“We’ve been negotiating in good faith, and we hope that we can get a settlement by day’s end,” Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said on Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

Wirth said it was possible the airline could reach an agreement with at least one union on Monday, if not all three.

“Absolutely. That’s one of the alternatives open during the negotiations,” she said.

If there is no agreement on Monday, the talks could be extended for another three weeks or the airline and unions will submit to binding arbitration by the labor tribunal.

The Transport Workers Union, representing Qantas baggage handlers, wants the talks to be extended for another 21 days, on fears that arbitration will end up working in the airline’s favor.

“I’m putting to Alan Joyce and Leigh Clifford, the CEO —give it another 21 days and start negotiating in good faith, not bad faith,” Tony Sheldon, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, said on ABC Radio.

Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce and Chairman Leigh Clifford have taken a hard line against the unions following more than a year of talks over pay and conditions.

The unions’ main concerns are around the airline’s moves to cut costs and set up two airlines based in Asia.

The Australian and International Pilots Association’s chief demand is that any pilot on a flight carrying a Qantas code or sold as a Qantas ticket should be paid the same as a Qantas pilot.

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Ed Davies

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